I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Telecommunications department at Indiana University. My research centers on the processing and effects of video games. Additionally, I use games as an experimental tool for investigating various social scientific phenomena. Specifically, I am interested in violence and morality and I integrate evolutionary and social psychology into my research. My inquiry relies on experimental, content analytic, and survey methodologies.
Two foci drive my current research program. First, I am investigating how psychological distance affects perceptions of violent content and subsequent aggression when playing video games. Second, my dissertation aims to explore the nature of human moral intuitions using an array of perspectives such as Moral Foundations Theory, Moral Condemnation, and Relationship Regulation.
Regarding teaching, I draw from two areas. First, my education in Telecommunications at the University of Georgia (BA, 2007) and my work experience as a journalist and ad designer centered on media creation. Thus, I am eager to teach classes that emphasize production, writing for media, advertising, and design. Second, my education in Mass Communications and research experience at Indiana University (MA, 2011) has prepared me to teach courses focusing on media psychology, communication theory and methods, and classes that rely upon my research expertise.
Below is the introduction to a blog post I wrote on video game violence. Both Gamasutra and Motivate Play published it earlier this year.
Media violence research waxes and wanes like many other research topics. Focusing events train the collective gaze of the world on single point. When Facebook changes how it shares our information, we discuss our tenuous grip on privacy. When Twitter aids in the coordination of a revolution, we discuss the awesome power of social networking. Similarly, when violent tragedies occur involving youth, many look toward the research surrounding violent media—video games in particular. Unfortunately, this body of research often elicits more confusion than clarity.
The informative potential of emotionally personalized news
For IU Telecom’s Media Arts & Sciences Speaker SeriesOzen Bas and Betsi Grabe presented their recent research on emotionally charged news. Building off the current understanding of the knowledge gap, they argued that democracy needs an informed citizenry. But democracy struggles because of the differences among individuals regarding cognitive inadequacy and/or motivation. Additionally, some suggest that news media are not fulfilling their role of accurately informing the public because they focus on subjective reporting that emphasizes emotion over cold, hard facts (i.e., reason).
The idea that emotionally laden news is bad comes from the notion that emotion and reason cannot co-occur. To rationally engage with content means you can’t be emotionally invested. But more recent work within political and cognitive science shows that the emotion and reason can bolster one another. Thus, Ozen and Betsi’s work explored how emotion better serves memory for news content based on one’s level of education.
A 2 (education high vs. low) x 2 (time 1 & time 2) x 2 (personalized vs. non-personalized story) experiment revealed that emotional content increased memory for news content for all subjects. However, the benefit was most noticeable among lower educated participants. The time analyses showed that memory decayed more for those with lower education levels. Finally, those with lower education levels remembered more general details about the news stories and those with higher education levels remembered more specific details about the news stories.
I think these findings pose a curious challenge for dual-process accounts such as the elaboration likelihood model (ELM), as it distinctly separates heuristic and systematic processing. Furthermore, the ELM argues that systematic processing leads to stronger attitude persistence. Perhaps Ozen and Betsi’s work reveals that parallel process accounts (see Khaneman’s research) better account for our retention of news content.
To illustrate, he told us to imagine to men drinking at a bar together. They leave simultaneously and drive home. One man falls asleep at the wheel and hits a tree. He’s okay, the tree’s okay, but he is punished with a $250 fine for the DUI. The other man, however, falls asleep at the wheel and hits a child playing in a yard. Although he’s fine, the child dies and he is punished with 10 years in prison.
In this example both men have equally wrong mental states (intentions) but there were differing outcomes. Cushman’s work examines why punishment focuses so much on outcomes rather than intentions.
The presentation shared numerous studies and concepts but my favorite was the delineation on wrongness vs. punishment judgments. Cushman explained that wrongness judgments are prospective. We begin assessing the mental state that led to the subsequent action. Conversely, punishment judgments are retrospective. We work backwards to find out what caused the ultimate outcome. Because of this, punishment judgments are outcome-based (or biased) and wrongness judgments are intent-based/biased.
Digital Games as an Interdisciplinary Creative Process
R. Yagiz Mungan visited IU Telecom today and gave a presentation for the Media Arts & Sciences Speaker Series. Mungan described his interest in the intersection of art and research as it applies to gaming, interaction sound, music, and architecture. His belief is that games are simply another artistic medium–like the painter’s canvas or the illustrator’s paper. Because of this perspective, Mungan applies Wagner‘s term Gesamtkunstwerk meaning total work of art that is the amalgam of many art forms in his study of games.
Mungan is currently finishing up his MFA in Electronic and Time-based Art at Purdue University. Recently, he completed a project named Breezes of… It is a game-based installation that toyed with the idea of escapism. In the game, Players explore a virtual tropical environment. External to the game, a real-world pinwheel spins depending on orientation and wind in the virtual environment. See a video of the installation below.